Denver Broncos Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer
The Denver Broncos are in win-now mode, but that doesn't mean draft picks aren't very important to the success of the team. Last year, the Broncos got production from several of their rookies.
To get over the hump, the Broncos will need contributions from their rookie class again. The hope is that rookies aren't thrust into action before they are ready, but they force the coaching staff to give them playing time.
The 2014 NFL draft is deep due to a record number of underclassmen declaring. The Broncos have an opportunity to get an instant contributor or two and stockpile talent that can develop into starters down the line.
Teams that do well in the 2014 NFL draft have a chance to be good for years to come. What will the Broncos be looking for and thinking about starting Thursday? Here's the ultimate primer.
2014 Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 31 (31)
Round 2, Pick 31 (63)
Round 3, Pick 31 (95)
Round 4, Pick 31 (131)
Round 5, Pick 31 (171)
Round 6, Pick 31 (207)
Round 7, Pick 31 (246)
Position-by-Position Big Board
Quarterback: Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Zach Mettenberger, Jimmy Garoppolo, David Fales, Tom Savage, Teddy Bridgewater, Stephen Morris
Running Back: Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason, Devonta Freeman, Ka'Deem Carey, Charles Sims, Lache Seastrunk, Jerick McKinnon, Storm Johnson
Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Cody Latimer, Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant, Brandon Coleman, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, L'Damian Washington, Devin Street, Matt Hazel, Bennie Fowler, Torrence Allen
Tight Ends: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas, C.J. Fiedorowicz, A.C. Leonard, Colt Lyerla
Offensive Tackles: Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews, Zack Martin, Morgan Moses, Joel Bitonio, Jack Mewhort, Billy Turner
Offensive Guards: Zach Martin, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Joel Bitonio, Dakota Dozier, David Yankey, Charles Leno, Brandon Thomas
Centers: Marcus Martin, Weston Richburg, Travis Swanson, Wesley Johnson
Defensive Ends: Jadeveon Clowney, Scott Crichton, Kony Ealy, Kareem Martin, Demarcus Lawrence Will Clarke
Defensive Tackles: Aaron Donald, Kony Ealy, Timmy Jernigan, Ra'Shede Hageman, Dominique Easley, Stephon Tuitt, Will Sutton, Daniel McCullers, Deandre Coleman, Jay Bromley
Inside Linebackers: C.J. Mosely, Chris Borland, Christian Jones, Shayne Skov, Yawin Smallwood, Avery Williamson
Outside Linebackers: Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Ryan Shazier, Jeremiah Attaochu, Kyle Van Noy, Telvin Smith, Jordan Tripp, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Carlos Fields Jr., Devon Kennard
Cornerbacks: Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, Lamarcus Joyner, Phillip Gaines, Pierre Desir, Marcus Roberson, E.J. Gaines
Safeties: Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jimmie Ward, Terrence Brooks, Deone Bucannon, Ahmad Dixon, Dion Bailey, Marqueston Huff, Kenny Ladler, Tre Boston
Round 1, Pick 31
The Denver Broncos don't have a lot of needs, so finding a player that can compete for playing time as a rookie could be a challenge. The Broncos could look at bringing in another cornerback considering that Chris Harris Jr. is recovering from a torn ACL. Middle linebacker also has to be considered, as it has been a revolving door for the Broncos for the last two years.
If top slot cornerback Jason Verrett isn't available, Lamarcus Joyner could be an option. Joyner can play safety as well as the nickel, which is flexibility that could make it easier for him to get on the field.
Ideally, C.J Mosely or Ryan Shazier would fall to the Broncos, but that seems unlikely. It's not a particularly deep draft at inside linebacker, so they are better off going in a different direction in the first round if Mosely and Shazier aren't available.
The Broncos could also go with a offensive guard or center. Orlando Franklin is transitioning to left guard from right tackle and is entering his contract year. Manny Ramirez is the starting center, but the Broncos may rather have him as a reserve at the three interior line positions.
Versatile offensive guard Zach Martin is unlikely to fall because he can also play tackle, but Xavier Su'a-Filo and Joel Bitonio could still be available. Bitonio has the versatility to play both tackle and guard, meaning he could back up multiple spots on the offensive line as a rookie.
Centers Marcus Martin and Weston Richburg are both solid center prospects with the type of agility that will help them thrive in the zone-blocking scheme the Broncos deploy. Centers and guards aren't sexy picks, but protecting quarterback Peyton Manning must continue to be a priority.
A trade down makes a lot of sense for the Broncos in the first round. Several teams could be trying to move up from the second round to get a quarterback because first-round picks have a fifth-year option on their rookie deals. Acquiring more picks later in the draft or even deferring picks into future years will give the Broncos a chance to continue to be successful even after Peyton Manning retires.
Round 2, Pick 63
Just like the first round, the Broncos may target an inside linebacker, cornerback or interior offensive lineman in the second round. Unlike the first round, the Broncos may get better value at these positions in the second round.
Chris Borland is widely considered the second-best inside linebacker in the draft, but carries a late second or early third-round grade almost universally. Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller has Borland ranked 57th overall on his final big board.
If the Broncos get lucky, Lamarcus Joyner may still be available. Miller has him graded as his 60th overall player. Phillip Gaines is Miller's 63rd overall player. Joyner may be much higher on some boards. Former scout Bryan Broaddus has him as his 41st overall player.
The Broncos can probably wait another round before considering an offensive guard or center if they didn't get one in the first. The fact that there is such a clear difference between the type of player the Broncos can get at the end of the first and the end of the second round is reason enough to draft one in the first or trade down a few spots into the top of the second.
A defensive lineman like Kareem Martin, if available, would also make sense for the Broncos at the end of the second round. DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe currently project as the starting ends, but both had injuries last season.
Round 3, Pick 95
The Broncos are fortunate it's a deep draft because they should still be able to snag a future starter with the 95th overall pick. To do so, the Broncos will have to draft the best player available. The Broncos may no longer have a choice between multiple players at a position of need.
There are a plethora of defensive backs that could fall into this range and provide good value. One or more of free safety Marqueston Huff, cornerback Marcus Roberson and cornerback Walt Aikens should still be available.
The Broncos worked out prospect Telvin Smith, according to the National Football Post, and he would be another option if available at No. 95. Smith is an undersized linebacker who could transition to strong safety as a pro.
Linebackers often present good value on Day 2 and small school prospect Jordan Tripp would give the Broncos competition for Nate Irving in the middle. Like Irving, Tripp is also versatile enough to play on the outside.
If general manager John Elway ignores offensive guard in the first two rounds, a prospect like Dakota Dozier provides tremendous upside. Dozier's athleticism for his size should be a good fit in the zone scheme, but the Broncos probably couldn't count on him becoming a starter immediately.
The end of the third round may also be a sweet spot for a center. The top two will likely be off the board, but the Broncos may also like Arkansas center Travis Swanson.
Round 4, Pick 131
By the end of the fourth round, many teams are just looking for a player that is going to make the roster. This player is often a key reserve or provides value on special teams.
Not the Broncos.
General manager John Elway has drafted defensive lineman Malik Jackson, tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Quanterus Smith in a similar range of the past three drafts. Smith's rookie year started slow, but he was coming off a torn ACL. Jackson came on strong last year and Thomas developed into one of the best tight ends in the league.
If the past three drafts are any indication, this is where the Broncos will find an underrated defensive lineman or take a chance on a superior athlete that may not have a lot of football experience.
Defensive tackle Deandre Coleman would certainly help the Broncos clog the middle against the run. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com compared Coleman to Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. Coleman could eventually replace the Broncos' 31-year-old tackle as part of the defensive line rotation.
Other options include 6'6" wide receiver Brandon Coleman, offensive guard David Yankey and cornerback E.J. Gaines. The Broncos won't just settle for a reserve, even if that means a longer development time for the player they draft.
Round 5, Pick 171
By the end of the fifth round, the Broncos can no longer expect to find a starter. That may still be the goal, but every prospect in this range is going to have flaws.
A good scheme fit on the offensive line makes sense, which is precisely the direction the Broncos went last year with pick No. 173. In the 2012 NFL draft the Broncos landed Danny Trevathan with pick No. 188 and he has developed into an above-average starter.
Elway took advantage of value in getting Trevathan, and identifying where there may be value at the end of the fifth round can be a challenge. All signs point to linebacker, which could be ideal if the Broncos don't go with one in the first four rounds.
Boston College outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis may remind the Broncos of Trevathan. Pierre-Louis is undersized, but he has good movement skills and projects as an eventual starter on the weak side. Given the current state of the team, the Broncos should be more concerned with finding linebacker that can stop the pass than can plug the run.
There may also be considerable value on the defensive line in this range. Defensive end Aaron Lynch has huge upside if he can be motivated and defensive end Brent Urban would be a good candidate to back up Derek Wolfe.
Defensive tackle George Uko has experience inside and outside. Uko is just 284 pounds, but has the frame to add more weight and a good first step. The Broncos could do much worse at the end of the fifth round.
Round 6, Pick 207
By the sixth round, NFL teams are usually just picking the top players on their board. This is where the scouts really early their keep.
Inside linebacker Yawin Smallwood would be an ideal pick if he falls this far. Smallwood is a better athlete than many of the prospects graded above him, but he's still raw.
If Smallwood isn't available, the Broncos could look at Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson. The Broncos have had good luck with Kentucky linebackers in the past with Wesley Woodyard and Trevathan. Williamson has good size and athleticism but needs to be more physical.
Round 7, Pick 246
If the Broncos are lucky, a prospect they didn't expect to fall this far will be available. Offensive guard Anthony Steen had start potential and a late-round grade, but may go at some point in the sixth round or top of the seventh round.
One of the things the Broncos have going for them is a strong locker room. Quarterback Peyton Manning keeps everyone in line. Fall out of favor with Manning and there's a good chance you will find yourself looking for a job.
The Broncos can take the kind of risks other teams wouldn't, like drafting former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla. There is little doubt that Lyerla is a first-round talent, but has so many character concerns he might not even be drafted.
If Lyerla can mature and put his off-the-field issues behind him, he could be the steal of the draft. The Broncos have built the kind of environment that Lyerla needs to thrive at the next level and could replace slot receiver Wes Welker as soon as next year if everything goes well.
Most seventh-round picks would have a hard time making Denver's roster, but that's not the case for a talent like Lyerla.
Latest Draft Buzz
- “John Fox loves (Ra'Shede) Hageman,’’ one general manager told Peter King of the MMQB.com Monday.
- Mike Klis of the Denver Post believes the Broncos could be enticed to move up if quarterbacks push the middle linebackers or cornerbacks down the board.
- Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN thinks the Broncos could target cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
- According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Broncos are talking about trading up in the first round.
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